Social Media Marketing for Travel Brands and Services Why Travel Brands Need to Book Social Media on their Itineraries The recent increase in the number of people going online to research and plan their vacations has prompted travel brands to develop a solid digital presence. Although some are still testing the waters, many travel brands have already made social media an integral part of their marketing strategy. Tech-savvy travel agencies are looking to make their websites a one-stop shop for users who want all travel related information in one place. Whether it is last-minute travel tips, destination information or attractive offers, everything is just a click away. According to the 2011 Digital Travel Content and User Experience Survey conducted by Frommer‟s Unlimited: Almost 2/3rd of travel marketing companies are planning to increase their social media marketing spend in 2011. The budgets for general travel content and mobile marketing are likely to increase by 63% and 50% respectively.
72% of the 18-24 demographic said that they would share their travel experiences online via Facebook; twitter and travel blogs accounted for 27% and 26% of usage respectively. 93% of the respondents said that they would look online for information about their holiday destination „before deciding where to go. The recent spurt in the number of travelers going online to plan trips and research holiday destinations has made social media an attractive avenue for travel brands. Here are some more reasons why the travel business is going social: Tech-savvy travel agencies are using social media to communicate with potential customers and keep existing customers updated with the latest offers and information. Increasing brand visibility is also a high priority for many travel companies. Using social media monitoring tools such as Brand Monitor, brands are a) keeping a tab on travel recommendations by existing customers to their friends b) studying the impact of their online marketing strategy and how well it has been received by customers c) understanding what is important to travelers and anticipating their needs and d) monitoring their brand‟s position within all the online channels and networks. Many travel companies are using social media for providing valuable content, which will establish their expertise over time, subsequently boosting traffic and revenue. © Position2, Inc.
Social media can function as a platform for information exchange and on-site referrals; agencies can use this for converting customers to brand advocates. Position2‟s research on social media strategies for travel brands resulted in some interesting findings: as a travel industry professional, there are three crucial points we recommend you keep in mind:
1. Create that Perfect Webpage Irrespective of what your business objectives are, we believe a well designed web-page is essential to get your audiences‟ attention and keep them coming back for more. A webpage with too many marketing messages and too less information may keep away prospective customers or give them a reason to look elsewhere. Keep in mind, content plays an important role in the user‟s experience on websites, which impacts conversion rates and loyalty. As a travel brand, your social media webpage should: Focus on the Necessary Information First: Finding the limit to “how much information” you can include in your homepage can sometimes be challenging. Visitors to your website or social media page naturally want to know travel-related information and tips; why not include these first and provide links for other details. A travel brand‟s home page should ideally include: a) information on what hotels they should stay and airlines they can use b) basic details of the most popular holiday destinations they can visit at that time of the year c) places to check out and things to do on arriving at a destination d) last minute specials and e) valuable tips for first time international travelers. Frommer‟s study also shows that 88% of travelers looked for description of the destination and information on special offers on a travel site.
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Be Visually Appealing: The right balance of content and images is very important to keep users captivated. Once you have their attention, then their curiosity about that lovely resort pictured will ensure the requests for bookings follow. Feature Social Apps to Connect: Traveling is a social activity and people make travel decisions largely based on recommendations of their family and friends. Social apps such as Tripadvisor‟s travel map leverage this and show users the destinations where their Facebook friends have traveled. Be User-Friendly: Frommer‟s research on consumer experiences on travel websites specified poor navigation and confusing site layout to be among the biggest problems faced by people when looking for information. 58% of the users said that the information they were looking for was hard to find, because a particular site was not easy to navigate. Our suggestion? Keep it simple and user friendly. Your prospective customers are regular people who will simply opt for your competitor‟s website when faced with navigation issues.
2. Choose the Right Platform According to the recent L2 Think Tank, Digital IQ Index for travel report, social media is responsible for driving 78% of the traffic on travel websites. Travel agencies are exploring all the possibilities in the social media space in order to drive traffic and increase sales. Twitter accounts, Facebook pages and blogs are filled with travel tips, destination details and user reviews. Is this a good idea? Yes, if your brand is in the same league as Lonely Planet. The popular travel brand has a Facebook presence, a Twitter account and a blog; this is in addition to its travel specific social networking site. However, we suggest checking out the competition and researching online (find out where your customers spend their time in the social media space) before deciding what social media channels work best for you. Facebook: With Facebook having fans all over the globe, it is unsurprising that almost all travel companies include this channel as a „must have‟ in their social media list. For instance, Tourism Australia has a highly successful Facebook page that functions as a hub for visitors to share their holiday photos, talk about their experiences etc. If your brand is relatively new to the travel and tourism industry, then Facebook is the perfect foundation to build your social media strategy on. Using the Facebook Tabs feature to add information such as reviews, promotions and services is also a good idea. Twitter: With Twitter, it‟s wise to keep it simple. Your Twitter checklist should include your brand‟s logo or relevant images embedded in the background. Travelocity‟s Twitter account has a well designed background and also features links that drive traffic to the company‟s main website. Twitter also functions as a great social media customer service tool.
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Google+ Anyone? Although Google+‟s arrival to the social media party is fashionably late, the new entrant certainly looks promising. While Facebook and Twitter are currently „hot favorites‟, the launch of Google+ is expected to reshape the travel industry. Here‟s a quick tip; integrating the +1 button will enable customers to share the webpages they rate with their friends and family. Why Blogs Work: Blogs are an important part of a travel brand‟s online marketing arsenal. They not only communicate the brand‟s passion for travel to consumers, but also make their travel experiences so much better. Blogs are also great customer engagement tools; by blogging frequently and encouraging users to comment, you are on your way to building a loyal customer base. Videos: YouTube is a powerful direct marketing tool for travel brands to broadcast themselves and reach their audiences with their messaging. A creative YouTube video can give your brand that much needed shot in the arm. By sharing videos of holiday destinations posted by happy customers, brands can entice the user‟s contacts to think about visiting the destination themselves. For instance, popular travel brand Globus‟ website features videos where customers recount their journeys and talk about the best places to visit.
3. Social Media Advertising; the Winning Formula One of the most innovative recent social media promotions by a travel brand was by Australia‟s Queensland Tourism. The „Best Job in the World‟ campaign encouraged participants to apply for the job of the caretaker of the Great Barrier Reef Islands. The caretaker‟s job involved communicating his explorations and experiences to the world through his blog. Here‟s what made this campaign a winner from the word go: The organizers leveraged consumer generated content to market Queensland tourism. The contest directed huge traffic to the brand‟s official website; the site registered one million hits in a single day. The effort, which was a global hit, immensely benefited the Queensland tourism industry by boosting brand exposure (over $11 million worth of exposure). The social networking buzz that ensued saw 336,000 Facebook-referred website visits, and over 3,170 @Queensland Twitter followers. Creative social media campaigns not just add value to your brand, but also contribute to the ROI factor. We think social media is a rewarding platform for travel brands to advertise because: The travel bargain hunters are out there, looking for the best deals and packages. What would be a better way to entice this demographic than with Facebook and YouTube campaigns that promote season specials and offers. Of the business benefits involved; advertising in social media creates monetization opportunities and can deliver measurable returns. While the actual investment is considerably less (compared to traditional advertising), the ROI is tangible. Hotels these days are using Facebook and Twitter for everything from fulfilling customer service needs to processing bookings. By designing online campaigns, in partnership with the hotels, travel agencies can not only promote their brand and generate revenue, but also direct visitors to the hotels that most suit their requirements. For travel brands, one of the biggest advantages of advertising using social media is the ability to tailor campaigns to directly target relevant audiences. For instance, travel brands targeting couples looking for honeymoon packages can design ads that talk to this demographic by referring to their customer data base. Unlike traditional media, where ads meant for a specific audience are viewed by all and dismissed as irrelevant, social media gives your brand the opportunity to connect to the intended audience by personalizing content.
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Conclusion From sharing travel experiences online, to planning vacations based on traveler-generated ratings, there has been a dramatic shift in consumer behavior in the travel and tourism industry in recent times. The increasing use of various social networking channels for travel planning leaves no doubt that social media is an integral part of the travel business. The rapidly changing digital landscape means that more and more tech-savvy travel companies are now going the „social‟ way. The low investment, high returns benefit of going digital has prompted travel agencies to fill in their Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and blogs with travel guidelines, destination details and other valuable information. While travel brands are harnessing the power of social media to gain that edge over competitors, engage effectively with customers and increase brand awareness, the plethora of networking channels out there can sometimes be confusing. For travel businesses looking to get the most out of their online marketing strategies, identifying the right social media channel is imperative. While Facebook and Twitter are expected to bite big chunks from the travel pie, the new entrant, Google+ shows immense potential; we are curious to see how travel brands take advantage of Google‟s new social prodigy. Meanwhile, irrespective of what social media tools an agency uses, we consider blogs and videos to be essential for filling in those gaps. That said, there are many rewards that make social media a worthwhile investment for the travel industry. For today‟s travel brands, social media is a powerful transformational tool.
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About Position2 Position2 is a Search and Social Media Marketing firm that delivers continuous growth for our clients using our proprietary “Surround and Intent” Marketing Methodology, delivered by our products. Our proprietary methodology is a result of years of experience in working with diverse clients to deliver customer acquisition goals through search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing (SMM), and Pay Per Click (PPC) and online media advertising. Position2 was founded in 2006 with funding from Accel Venture Partners, and has offices in Palo Alto, Bangalore and Mumbai. Position2 is a certified agency with Google, Yahoo, Bing and is also part of the Google Adwords advisory council.
Position2's flagship product is Position2 Brand MonitorTM, a platform that allows users to listen, discover and engage with social media conversations in real time. With a team of over 100 professionals, Position 2 also provides expertise in online marketing solutions: SEO, PPC, Media and Advertising. Position2 works with leading global brands:
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